Jon Eick might write a food blog, but he’s not your run-of-the-mill foodie—he isn’t a trained chef, a food critic, or even a particularly skilled cook. So what are his qualifications? “I’ve eaten food on a daily basis for the past 28 years,” he says.
Eick, who works in online marketing, started his blog, So Good, in August 2007 as an outlet for his interest in food marketing. He likes to poke fun at the food industry and takes a long, hard—and often hilarious—look at the industry’s best and worst commercials, gimmicks, and ad campaigns.
Last year, Eick’s blog post about a Papa John’s marketing faux pas, in which the delivery-pizza giant seemed to call basketball star Lebron James a “crybaby,” made national headlines. We won’t spoil the whole story for you—you can read about it here—but the day after Eick posted his rant, Papa John’s issued a formal apology.
We recently caught up with this standup comic (really!) to get his take on the comeback of retro food labels, which local Top Chef—Spike or Carla—he prefers, and what tagline he’d give Washington’s signature food, the half-smoke. Read on for his answers.
Three tips for food advertisers:
“(1) Put more money into research and development. A genius food creation sells itself. (2) Making me hungry is more important than making me laugh. (3) Pay me to be your part-time consultant.”
Three foods you’ve tried because of their marketing:
“(1) Crystal Pepsi. Those early ads inspired me to reach for bigger, better, clearer things. (2) McDonald’s chicken nuggets. I ate them for the first time in a while because of their ‘Nuggnuts’ campaign. (3) Mustardayonnaise. Bonus points if you know the reference.”
What not to do when marketing food:
“Hire an actor who’s deathly allergic to the food featured in your TV ad. That’s never happened, as far as I know, but such a situation would be disastrous. Another tip: Don’t force people to buy your competitor’s product. Coke just unveiled coupons that get people a free Vault, the company’s new energy drink, but only after they purchase Mountain Dew, a Pepsi product. I don’t get marketing campaigns like that.”
Best and worst food commercials on TV right now:
“Best would be Sonic ads. They’re simple, funny, and easily recognizable, and they highlight both the food product in question and the price at the end of each ad. From the moment one of the commercials starts, you can identify it with the Sonic brand. And for the worst: That Swanson chicken-broth ad where those women are cackling like wild hyenas and harassing the one lady about how she sucks at cooking. I see that commercial all the time during sporting events, and I can’t imagine many guys can relate to it. Every time I see it, I tune out instantly; the first five seconds of the ad convey the impression that I’m not the target audience and they don’t care if I listen or not.”
Your thoughts on the return of retro food labels:
“You had me at retro.”
Best food-related show on TV:
“Top Chef. Hands down. I could spend days watching a Top Chef marathon. I know you didn’t ask for the worst show, but I’d like to add that whoever has allowed Hell’s Kitchen to stay on the air should be locked in a room and forced to subsist on nothing but circus peanuts for an entire year.”
Washington’s best Top Chef—Spike Mendelsohn or Carla Hall?
“Carla, but only because she lived in DC when she first went on the show. I’m still baffled that Spike and I aren’t buddies. I suppose never having met him is a bit of an impediment, but that dude needs to go have a beer with me.”
Coke or Pepsi?
“I’m a huge Cherry Coke Zero fan, but if I’m choosing between regular colas, Pepsi.”
Best food mascot you’ve ever seen:
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a food mascot in person, and I’d question the mental sanity of anyone who claims they have—especially Chester Cheetah.”
Most nostalgic food commercial:
“I spent many afternoons as a kid singing the ‘Be Like Mike’ song from those Gatorade commercials while throwing down sick tomahawk dunks on my seven-foot basketball hoop. Then again, the theme song for the Nintendo breakfast cereal will probably be stuck in my head forever.”
Most nostalgic food:
“Juice boxes. Anyone who says they didn’t love juice boxes is a liar. Also, if you’re going to point out that a juice box is actually a type of food packaging, not a type of food, my response is this: Cram it.”
Sexiest and least sexy foods in commercials:
“I’m mildly disturbed by this question.”
Tagline for Washington’s specialty, the half-smoke:
“ ‘So good’? Ben’s, you can send me a royalty check whenever you’d like. Runner-up: ‘Half-smoke, half-awesome.’ ”
Favorite place to eat out in Washington:
“Brasserie Beck. I really like beer.”
Favorite sandwich in the area:
“The Philly from the Italian Store in Arlington.”
Local restaurant not worth the hype:
“Lauriol Plaza. The food is decent and the margaritas are great, but have fun waiting 2½ hours for your pager to vibrate.”
Underplayed local restaurant that could benefit from good marketing:
“I had a good burger at this place called Five Guys once, but good luck finding a location in the DC area or anyone who’s heard of it before.”
Best city for food besides Washington:
“New York City. I hate New Yorkers who refuse to believe good food exists outside their city, but for the purposes of getting my pizza, bagel, and sandwich fix, it’s gotta be NYC.”
Check back next Wednesday for our interview with Matt Rhoades of Borderstan. Find out his bests and worsts on his not-quite-Logan-Circle-not-quite-Dupont neighborhood.
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